Monday, January 17, 2011

Mr. Hu comes to Washington

By David Sanger adn Michael Wines, New York Times, January 16, 2011
Mr. Hu’s strange encounter with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates here last week — in which he was apparently unaware that his own air force had just test-flown China’s first stealth fighter — was only the latest case suggesting that he has been boxed in or circumvented by rival power centers.

American officials have spent years urging Mr. Hu to revalue China’s currency, rein in North Korea, ease up on dissidents and crack down on the copying of American technology, and they have felt at times that Mr. Hu agreed to address their concerns. But those problems have festered, and after first wondering if the Chinese leader was simply deflecting them or deceiving them, President Obama’s top advisers have concluded that Mr. Hu is often at the mercy of a diffuse ruling party in which generals, ministers and big corporate interests have more clout, and less deference, than they did in the days of Mao or Deng Xiaoping, who commanded basically unquestioned authority.
China’s military has sometimes pursued an independent approach to foreign policy. So have many of China’s biggest state-owned companies, sometimes to the United States’ detriment. The result is that relations between the world’s largest superpower and its fastest-rising one are at one of their lowest point in years, battered by confrontations that took Mr. Obama by surprise — and, on occasion, Mr. Hu as well.
Some obvious questions emerge, both from this piece in the NYTimes, and from Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN yesterday.
Are the military, which seems on a separate course from the civil politicians in the Chinese Communist Party, controlled by those same politicians?
Since the military is alleged to hold the view that the U.S. is the enemy of China and that war with the U.S. is "inevitable" (Zakaria's word), and since the Chinese leader seemed completely unaware of his own country's testing of the stealth fighter, and since Mr. Hu is coming to Washington in the very near future, what stance is most appropriate for the Obama White House, in these upcoming talks?
We already know that the Chinese government have declared that a cyber conflict is their preference to a military conflict with the U.S., and now that we are learning that the Chinese military (the largest army in the world) considers conflict with the U.S. 'inevitable' there seems some reason to reflect on the current state of relations between China and the U.S.
Everyone knows that China's economic development is like a runaway train down a mountain, so great is its speed and force, yet at the same time, everyone also knows that Chinese people earn barely a meagre income for their work, work in extremely poor conditions, and breathe polluted air, and in the midst of this "emergence" on the world stage, it would be highly unlikely that the Chinese military would not consider itself a significant player in the role that China plays on that stage.
Mr. Hu and his colleagues have been resistant to raising the level of their currency, in order to slow down the imbalance in trade with the west. And so while we will likely see smiles on the faces of both Mr. Obama and Mr. Hu following their talks in Washington, there is every reason to consider those smiles more of a Hollywood production to calm the legitimate fears that the west has about China's geopolitical intentions.
Is that metaphor of the train galloping down the mountain, regarding the economy, also a metaphor for an out-of-control nation, whose leaders have lost their grip on the various sectors, economic, military and industrial, that are vying for power within the Chinese communist state?

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